City life can grind down even the most high-spirited folks, and it might be a good idea to get out of an urban area once in a while! There’s nothing like escaping the city to allow the fresh air and sounds of nature restore your mind and heart. Remember to bring lots of water and to dress appropriately for the weather and terrain so that you have the best experience. Make sure that you know your route well and/or bring along mapping or GPS equipment to keep you from getting lost.
The term for leaving bits of garbage along nature trails is “littering”. The term that has been adopted for this obnoxious form of auditory assault on nature is “audio littering”. It is likely fledgling and novice hikers that are guilty of this behaviour. They are likely not perpetrating it out of disrespect of others, but out of ignorance concerning the effects on other nature-lovers and on animals. Remember to respect the other naturophiles and any sound-sensitive animals and insects by leaving the speakers at home.
We would be amiss, however, if we didn’t at least mention the benefits of using tunes as a bear deterrent. If you’re in grizzly country (not as applicable to Saskatchewan, but who knows where your travels will take you!), you may get tired of the constant jingle of bear bells or of mumbling “hey bear!” for hours on end. To break up the monotony, it’s likely forgivable to play some music at a reasonable volume for a few hours.
In the majority of cases, the consensus from other trail users is that it is best for you to leave your blaring music at home. As much as you may feel that everyone deserves to be serenaded by your musical selection, other hikers (not to mention the local, disturbed and startled fauna) may feel differently.
Now, we will take a moment to point out that there is a very large difference between bringing portable speakers to blast your music across the hills and throwing on some headphones to sink into some of your favourite tunes. If you’re going to plug into your headphones, it’s important to remember a couple of things.
First, safety (of course). It’s all well and good to plug in at a café, but earbuds in a forest can distract us from the very real dangers of the trail. Other trail users, bears, sudden topographical changes (logs/roots/cliffs) may all be on your list of concerns, depending on how confidently you know the trail. You’ll want to calculate the likelihood of running into danger and consider even leaving one ear bud out to better hear oncoming hikers, bikers, horses, and animals. Music doesn’t have to be turned up to an obnoxious volume; part of the joy of nature is the sound of nature.
Second, the music that you listen to will set your stage. Music can bring us up or down, to make us joyful or sorrowful. What music you choose will affect your hike in a very real way and may even make you more or less likely to pursue that activity again in the future. Do you want or need to keep your spirits high? Or are you looking to foster some serious melancholic thinking? Choose your tunes carefully to cultivate the feeling you want.
To get you started, https://8tracks.com/explore/hiking has (at last count) 208 free hiking playlists for you, with amazing audio like Ben Howard and more mainstream music like the Lumineers. You’re sure to find something that you like, and playlists like these are a great way to discover music that you otherwise would never have encountered.
My personal favourites: nobody can beat Porcupine Tree, Amplifier, and Pretty Lights for their ability to groove with nature.
Porcupine Tree sounds like a slightly more modern version of Pink Floyd, complete with mood swings between exaltation and beautifully tragic. I recommend their entire album “Lightbulb Sun” to get you started.
Amplifier is reminiscent of Tool, with disestablishment lyrics, shoegaze, sweeping, melodic guitar riffs, quick tempo changes, and gorgeous drum work. The band was formed out of the ashes of Oceansize. If you were a fan, you’ll love Amplifier, and find that it goes well with hiking and is a little easier to listen to (less descent into dissonance). Their first self-titled album (2004) is a treat, especially the last two tracks.
Pretty Lights (known for his light shows at music festivals) plays upbeat and joyful funky tracks, with samples from long-lost music and a wistful touch of the melancholy. Here’s my favourite track, called “Understand Me Now”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MOk5az-KnOY. If you’re looking to buy an album of theirs, “A Colour Map of the Sun” will blend wonderfully with whatever lovely nature scene you find.